Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Yes he did

That tremor you felt this evening at 6:01 p.m. PDT (9:01 p.m. EDT) was the sound of history arriving, the sound of our comfortable national realities, our long-held national expectations being irrevocably transformed.

Buoyed by millions of African American voters, and a broad cross-section of Americans across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum, Barack Hussein Obama, the biracial son of Africa and Europe, is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency of the United States of America. The iPod wins.

“ … [B]ecause of what you said; because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America," Obama said in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., before a crowd of 17,000 (with another 15,000 reportedly waiting outside).

"Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States."

◊ ◊ ◊

It wasn’t all movie moment. Hillary Clinton saw to that. In a campaign rally at Baruch College in Manhattan, Clinton performed a not-quite-dignified climbdown, in a curious valedictory that wasn’t a concession speech despite the numerical evidence, that Obama was well over the 2,118 delegates he needed to win. Clinton congratulated Obama and his campaign "on the extraordinary race they have run." But she congratulated him in the context of the race going on rather than ending, offering a recap of the reasons (popular vote totals) why she should still be the nominee.

“In the coming days, I'll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way," she said.

“She did everything but offer Barack Obama the vice presidency,” noted Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, on CNN.

It was obstinance personified. The attitude even extended to the music on the Team Clinton campaign jukebox; her rally ended with Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” and, in an act of curious straight-up defiance, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”

Later, Obama extended an olive branch. “Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.”

Then Obama renewed his shift in attention to the general election. With both words and actions, he threw a jab at Republican challenger John McCain, the newly-minted nominee taking dead aim at McCain’s relationship with the Bush administration — and the war that administration will be defined by.

“Change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged,” Obama said at the Xcel Center in Minneapolis-St. Paul — the same Xcel Center where McCain will make his acceptance speech in September. “I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years …”

◊ ◊ ◊

“America, this is our moment. This is our time,” Obama said tonight, reaching again for the Kennedyesque high ground, restating a theme (if not a phrase) he’s used before, but better this time. Bigger. “Let us begin to work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.”

Chris Matthews, co-directing the coverage for MSNBC, got outside his domestic political comfort zone and grasped the wider dimension of what was happening — that nothing less took place tonight than a change in the baseline of American possibility, a change with global resonance.

“Everywhere in the world in a few hours, in Europe and Africa, in Cape Town and Nairobi … in Bangladesh and Asia, this is a huge story,” Matthews said at the moment MSNBC called the South Dakota delegate count for Obama. “[I]n a world dominated by European powers — forever, it seems — this is the first time a major political power anywhere in that world has nominated … a person of color. This is a unique, perhaps trend-setting change in our planet.”

And if the population of the world could vote here, maybe they’d have echoed Thewrldneedsobama, posting at The Huffington Post:

“I'm so happy for America right now, you guys did it!!!! Thank you for give us Obama. I'm in tears … And I'm in Mexico.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Wednesday starts another kind of day one. Obama can be expected to fully make the change into general-election mode. First, there's unfinished business within the party. “At 11:06 p.m. EST, shortly after he left the rostrum in Minneapolis, Obama left Clinton a message congratulating her on winning South Dakota and asking her to call him back. At 12:16 am she did, and offered to "sit down when it makes sense for you,’ " Time.com reported.

Then there’s Obama's plans to address what many in the punditburo see as his most glaring political weakness: connecting with the rural, blue-collar white voters who were largely absent for him in the primary season. Seth Colter Walls, reporting in The Huffington Post, reports that Obama plans to head Thursday to Virginia, “right smack in the heart of Appalachia, where he is often thought to be toast because of his outsized losses to Senator Clinton in some of the region's primaries.” James Webb is the state’s Democratic senator.

For Barack Obama, an outsized improbable American dream has taken a huge step toward reality. “Politically, this is like landing on the moon,” said MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann when Obama passed the magic number. What’s left may be the political equivalent of a mission to Mars, the landing exactly five months from Wednesday.

Ignition. Team Obama has cleared the tower.
Image credit: Obama: Associated Press.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting up these two videos. I was in attendance last night at the rally. Great stuff.


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